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Old 13th March 2018, 10:50   #1
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Default Lahaul and Spiti : A Photologue

During July 2009, Amir Khan, R Mahadevan, Sharman Joshi and Karina Kapoor were in Leh.

What were they doing in Leh?
...Shooting for the movie 3idiots.

How do I know that?
...I was also there in Leh at the same time.

Yes. I was in Leh during July 2009. A trip to Leh was my old dream. A very old Dream.

How old?
...Well! I was aware of some region named Ladakh but didn't know much about it. During 1998, I got a chance to watch Dil Se Movie. Leh and surrounding area were amazingly captured in that movie. I decided then and there in the theatre that I would visit this place someday. It was 1998 and I got a chance to visit Leh during 2009, after 9 years !!


Back in Leh, one evening, I was hanging out with some Israeli folks at some bar. We were discussing topics like motorcycles to Che Guevara and Heavy Metal to the chanting of Om Mani Padme Hum. It was the last night of my trip. When I told those Israeli folks that I love travelling in mountains, one of the guys asked me about Spiti.

Spiti!?
...Ok, I knew there was some district named Lahaul and Spiti in Himachal Pradesh but that’s it. I told him the same. They all laughed at me. They told me many things about Spiti like, its a tribal belt in Himachal Pradesh which is also known as Little Tibet. The roads in Spiti are just like Leh or tougher than Leh. They all insisted me to visit Lahaul & Spiti and Kinnaur once. Point Taken.


We came back from Leh. Spiti, Lahaul and Kinnaur were echoing in my mind. After joining my routine life, the first thing I did was to search Lahaul and Spiti on google. I was shocked with the result. There was an entire world north of Shimla. A beautiful world.

I got this image after googling Spiti. How could I ignore this stunning place? I decided to Visit Spiti-Kinnaur & Lahual Region. But when?
Lahaul and Spiti : A Photologue-00.jpg
Photo Courtesy: Google/www.cntraveller.in

Back then, I was working for an MNC, so leaves were an issue for me. However, I started getting details of Spiti. I studied everything, noted down numbers of hotel, drivers, made a list of attractions. Back in 2009, there weren't any Travelogues of Spiti (at least I didn't find any). I bought a Lonely Planet's HP related book and started planning my trip on the base of that.

Finally, after two years, I got leaves, everything was ready from my side (Even travel companions).

This is a more than five years old trip but I remember many things. However, this will be a photologue, where photographs will do most of the talking.

So, Here we go...

Some teasers:

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PS: Permissions to upload photographs at social media/forums were taken from locals. All the photographs were taken after prior permission from locals.

Last edited by Aditya : 22nd March 2018 at 16:39. Reason: As requested
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Old 13th March 2018, 11:15   #2
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Night Stay At Shimla-Kufri.

We were a group of five people travelling to Spiti. Our plan was to reach Delhi (by Air) and hire a vehicle to reach Shimla. For journey after Shimla, we were in touch with a TATA sumo owner from Shimla.

We hired a Tempo Traveler from Delhi to reach Shimla-Kufir, which was our starting point at 365+12 km from Delhi. Delhi to Shimla is normally a nine hours drive. However, due to several breakdowns and some traffic jams, it took us 14 hours to reach Kufri. It wasn’t a boring journey, once you enter in the Himalayas, nothing is boring.

A breakdown at Chandigarh.
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Our night stay was planned at one of the tent accommodations at Kufri. It was raining cats and dogs. We reached Kufri at 2000, had our dinner and retired to our small but comfortable tents.

My personal tent at Kufri.
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Journey Started.

Kufri is a small town located 13Km from Shimla. It used to be one of the famous places for Skiing. As per owner of our tent accommodation, Skiing was forgotten because of Potato farming.

After a nice & comfortable night stay at Kufri, we started our journey by a hired Sumo. Heavy rain and fog were limiting our visibility. We were travelling parallel to Satluj River. Our target was Sarahan Village 150Km from Kufri.

We started from Kufri.
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We started our journey by a hired Sumo with heavy rain and fog.
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Finally, the rain stopped and amazing views and Satluj river greeted us.
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We were driving parallel to Satluj River. As per our driver, Satluj is one of the fastest flowing rivers in the world.
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Stop at Rampur village.

After Kufri, our first tea stop was at Rampur village. A small but commercially important Village. We spent more than half hour there. We met some locals and talked to them about their lifestyle.

At Rampur, We were welcomed by Snow capped mountains of Srikhand mountain Range.

Dhaba owner at Rampur village.
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Folk music players at Rampur village.
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Srikhand Mountian Range.
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Old 13th March 2018, 12:20   #3
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At Sarahan Village.

We reached Sarahan Village at 1600. Sarahan is a quiet small town built into the hillside with spectacular views all around at Mountain Range at 7100 feet. The town is known as the gateway of Kinnaur. It is also well known for “Bhimakali Temple”. A beautiful multistoried structured building, a fusion of Hindu and Buddhist architecture.

We checked in at Dharamshala of Bhimakali temple and started exploring the village. We visited some local houses, a palace and witnessed an amazing sunset on the mountains of Srikhand Mountian range. Our night stay was at Bhimakali Dharmashala, which was on the campus of the temple.

We were roaming outside of campus exploring the village. When we came back at 2030, doors were closed. We had to bang that door to get the attention of caretakers. We had amazing food at Dharamshala and called it a day.

At Sarahan Village.
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Ancient but well-maintained Bhimakali Temple Dharamshala.
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Small but beautiful Sarahan Village.
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A local house at Sarahan.
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"Sarahan Palace" was home of Royal Family, who used to come here to worship "Bhimkali Mata".
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Bhimakali Temple, a fusion of Hindu and Buddhist architecture.
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Bhimakali Temple.
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Yours truly, clicking around at Sarahan Village.
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Exploring the village and visiting locals.
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At Bhimakali Temple.
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Old 13th March 2018, 12:45   #4
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Default re: Lahaul and Spiti : A Photologue

To the "Land of God".

We had an amazing night stay at Bhimakali Dharamshala, Sarahan. After a late breakfast, we started for our next destination, Rakchham village by crossing Sangla Valley.

We were going towards Kinnaur, also known as "Land of God". It is known for its serenity and beauty of the lush green and rocky mountainscape having Satluj, Baspa and Spiti river snaking through it. The stories of Pandavas and their link with Kinnaur is a great attraction.

We started from Sarahan.
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There was a small temple on the road to Sangla, named “Durga Temple”. Surperinslgly, there was a Gujarati priest. He was very happy to see a Gujarati group at his doorsteps. He welcomed us. He was at this temple from last 11 years and well-known in Sangla area as “ Barfani Baba.” We spent one hour with him, listening to his stories and shared his smoke.

Durga temple with a Gujarati Priest & his two-storeyed house.
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I shared his smoke.
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At Durga Temple.
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The road to Kinnaur was in amazing condition with breathtaking views.

Jaypee Dam on Satluj river.
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Amazing road.
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Approaching Kinnaur.
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Welcome to Kinnaur.

Kinnaur is in the northeast corner of Himachal Pradesh, having the three high mountains ranges i.e. Zanskar, the Himalayas and Dhauladhar, enclosing valleys of Sutlej, Spiti, Baspa and their tributaries

The people have strong culture and beliefs generally follow the Buddhism and Hinduism, believing the Pandavas came and resided in the land while in the exile. In the ancient mythology, the people of Kinnaur are known as Kinners, the halfway between men and gods. Thousands year old monasteries still exist in the area.

Welcome to Devbhoomi (The Land of God).
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Old 13th March 2018, 12:59   #5
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Sangla Valley.

We were approaching Sangla Valley. Sangla Valley is located in the Kinnaur district of Himachal Pradesh. It is one of the most beautiful valleys in the country. In Tibetan, the term Sangala means “pass of light”.

We crossed one of the gateways of Kinnaur. A road carved out of a big rock. This & these kinds of images attracted me to Spiti. After some time, we reached small Sangla village. We stopped for a while and moved ahead to reach our next destination Rakchham.

The gateway of Kinnaur.
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Sangla Valley.
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Close up of a snow cladded mountain.
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One more Closeup.
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At Rakchham Village.

We reached Rakchham around 1500. Rakchham is a small beautiful village at a height of around 2900Mt. One interesting fact about Rakchham is the men in the village normally take care of the herd of sheep and cows whereas women tend to do farming and household chores.

Beautiful Rakchham Village.
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A Random House.
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Beautiful Village.
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We checked in at the only hotel available in this village. It was an amazing place. Rooms were clean and the owner was very co-operative. We had a long walk in the village, met some locals and clicked them. View from room’s balcony was amazing.

Exploring Village.
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Exploring Village.
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Hardworking Women.
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A smile for Camera.
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Kids at Rakchham Village.
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View from Room's Balcony.
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Last edited by SJM1214 : 13th March 2018 at 18:29.
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Old 13th March 2018, 13:29   #6
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To Chitkul (The Last Village of India).

After a wonderful day and amazing night stay at Rakchham, we headed for Chitkul. Rakchham to Chitkul is 12 Kms. Chitkul is the last inhabited village near the Indo-Tibet border. The Indian road ends here. Potatoes grown at Chittkul are one of the best in the world and are very costly.

The road to Chitkul was tough but beautiful. The views on this road were breathtaking. We all were in good mood and excited to see the last Village on Indo- Tibetian Border.

To Chitkul.
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Narrow road.
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Baspa River was with us.
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A big cave (Man-made?)
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We faced a live landslide on the road. Within no time this Hitachi earthmover came and cleared the road for us.
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At Chitkul Village.

We were at Chitkul village in no time. It's a small but beautiful village. We had a small walk in the village. Talked to some of the locals, had our brunch at one of the cafes, which was actually "Hindustan ka akhari Dhaba" (India's Last food joint).

The last village of India.
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"Hindutan ka akhari Dhaba"
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Beautiful Chitkul.
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Walk/drive 20 km on this road & you"ll be in Tibet.
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Life at Chitkul.

We had a small walk in the village and talked with locals. Some glimpse of Life at Chitkul.

Government High School.
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Man taking care of Child.
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Nothing to Do.
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A lot to do.
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Temple Construction.
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This Temple named "Mathi Temple" was under construction when we were at Chtikul. Fully Constructed Temple.
Lahaul and Spiti : A Photologue-45.jpg
Pic Courtesy: http://res.cloudinary.com

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Old 13th March 2018, 13:43   #7
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To Kalpa Village.

We left Chitkul, our late lunch was planned at Sangla village. We had a brief stop at Sangla. There was small school Van with locals kids. I went there, played with them and clicked some of their photographs.

A cute Kid.
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Cutie with her friend.
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The Prince of Kinnaur.
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At Kalpa Village.

We reached Kalpa at 1545.

Kalpa is a small Village at a height of 2960. From Kalpa, we can get views of three peaks Roldan 5499 meter, Jarkanden ( 6473 Mt) and the Kinnaur Kailash at 6050 Mt height.

I found nothing special about this village. Our hotel was outside of village facing Kinnaur Kailash range, which was hidden behind clouds. Our night stay was at Kalpa. After checking in, I went to visit a nearby apple orchard and talked with its lady owner.

As per her, due to apple and Potato farming, people in Kinnaur region are very rich. Kinnaur is one of the highest per capita income region in India.

Owner of a nearby apple orchard. We talked a lot and she offered me tea.
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Close up of Kinnaur Kailash range.
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Close up of Kinnaur Kailash range.
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One more close up
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Old 13th March 2018, 14:02   #8
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To Tabo Village (Via Nako Village).

Kalpa was a dull village but our night stay was nice. We stayed at small guesthouse outside of village with the amazing view of Kinnaur Kailash Range. Unfortunately, during the entire time, Kinnaur Kailash Range was behind clouds.

Early morning we started for our next destination. Our next destination was a small village named Tabo with a thousand-year-old Monastery. But before that, we were going to visit a small Lake at Nako village.


The road to Nako was nice with amazing views.

Yours Truly on the road to Tabo.
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Beautiful Road.
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WaterFall.
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We were entering Spiti region.
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One Small turn on this road and all the green mountain was behind us. The shade of mountains changed, there wasn't any vegetation on this mountains. These Mountains were dry and rocky.

The road to Nako Village.
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Dry Mountains, with Spiti river in Valley.
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Road Merging with River.
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Lifeless Mountains.
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A small green dot.
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There was "Lamayuru Moonland" kind of formation on the road. We stopped a while with this formation clicked some photographs and moved ahead to Nako Village.

A different kind of Soil formation.
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Just like "Lamayuru Moonland"
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Old 13th March 2018, 14:19   #9
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At Nako Village.

We reached Nako village. We stopped at a small Dahaba outside of Nako village, where we met 53 motorcycles of "RE Himalayan Odyssey". Some of them were my friends. They asked me why I am not on a motorcycle and travelling by a TATA sumo. Well, I didn't have any answer for that.

After some light breakfast, we headed for Nako village. View from Nako village was amazing but Nako lake was disappointing. It was one dirty man-made pond, that's it. I was so disappointed with that pond, I didn't take a single photograph of that thing.

At Nako we met our first Praying wheels and "Om Mani Padme Hum" stone carvings.

Breathtaking view from Nako Village.
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Nako Helipad.
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View From Nako Helipad.
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Frist Praying Wheels of our Trip. At Nako Village.
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All those stones had "Om Mani Padme Hum" carved on them.
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To Tabo village.

We skipped our lunch & left Nako. We were going to entre Lahaul & Spiti district now. Roads were in good condition but mountains were dry and scray.

We registered ourselves at Sumdo Police CheckPost and kept moving. We were approaching Tabo village, where we were going to stay for a night.

Sumdo Police Check Post.
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A naked Mountian.
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Welcome to Lahual & Spiti.
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Natural stone Carvings.
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Approaching Tabo.
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Old 13th March 2018, 14:45   #10
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At Tabo Village.

We reached Tabo village at 1900.

Tabo is a small town in the Lahaul and Spiti district on the banks of the Spiti River. The town lies on the road between Rekong Peo and Kaza, the sub-divisional headquarters of Spiti. We checked in a small hotel and had a walk in this small village. It was a very small village with 1000 years old monastery and one newly made monastery. We visited Tabo caves.

Small Tabo Village.
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Tabo Caves.
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Tabo Monastery.

Next Day Morning, we visited Tabo Monastery.

Tabo Monastery was founded in 996AD. With its original decoration and art images intact, it is considered to be the oldest continuously functioning Buddhist monastery in India and the Himalayas. A thousand years ago Tabo served as a meeting place between two cultures, Indian and Tibetan. This is graphically illustrated in the artwork in the various temples.

We explored all the temples inside that campus.

1021 Years old Tabo Monastery.
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Stupas inside Monastery Campus.
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Tabo Monastery Campus.
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At Tabo Monastery.
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Praying Wheels.
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There was one more Monastery just next to this old campus. It was a newly built Monastery. We visited that and talked with their monks. As per them, Tabo Monastery is one of the favourites of Dalai Lama.

New Stupa At new Monastery.
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New Monastery.
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I made some friends.
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...and some more friends, In charge of Tabo Monastery.
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Shopping at Tabo Monastery.
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Old 13th March 2018, 15:02   #11
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To Kaza (Via Dhankar Monastery.)

Tabo was a small town, there was nothing to do except visiting Tabo Monastery and Caves. We were told that some 10 Km far there are some thousand years old mummies. I wanted to go and visit that, but other friends rejected my idea.

So, once again, we were on road, going to Kaza, but before that, we were going to visit Dhankar Monastery. Our lunch was planned at Dhankar Village.

We started for Kaza.
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We headed to a small Village named Dhankar
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Spiti River was with us.
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Dirt Road.
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Shadows of Clouds.
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Approaching Dhankar Village.
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At Dhankar Village.

We reached Dhankar Village.

Dhankar was the erstwhile capital of Spiti Valley Kingdom during the 17th century. We visited Dhankar Gompa (Monastery). Dhankar Gompa is a Buddhist monastery situated in the Spiti Valley. It stands perched at a height of 12,774 feet and falls between the towns of Kaza and Tabo.

Dhankar is a small town with this beautiful Monastery and a fort. We skipped the fort, had amazing lunch at one of the hotels at Dhankar watching Dhankar Monastery.

Welcome to Dhankar.
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Dhankar Monastery.
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A closeup of Dhankar Gompa.
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Dhankar Village.
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Lunch at Dhankar Village.
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Lunch, watching Dhankar Gompa.
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After a late lunch at Dhankar village, we started for Kaza.

We spotted some far village. Our driver told me that we are going to visit one of this kind of village next day. Roads were good. We were enjoying our journey. Dry and barren mountains were beautiful. I read somewhere that Spiti is actually a desert and receive very low rain

At one of the turns, which was going towards Pin valley, our driver stopped and offered to take us to Pin Valley. I was ready for it, but other friends wanted to stick to the itinerary. We didn't turn and headed to Kaza.

A Small Village.
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Going to Kaza.
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A Water stream coming out of Mountian.
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Natural Carving.
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We ignored Pin Valley.
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Last edited by SJM1214 : 13th March 2018 at 18:39.
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Old 13th March 2018, 15:19   #12
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At Kaza Town.

We reached Kaza at 1800.

The town of Kaza, is the subdivisional headquarters of the remote Spiti Valley in the Lahaul and Spiti. Kaza, situated along the Spiti River river at an elevation of 3,800 metres (12,500 ft) above mean sea level, is the largest township and commercial centre of the valley.

We checked in at our hotel, & had a walk in town. Its a busy town bustling with tourist and trekkers. I find a Cybercafe. I uploaded almost all of my photographs to Gdrive.

Approaching Kaza.
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Some Random village oppsotie site of Spiti River.
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Frist view of Kaza Town.
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Welcome to Kaza.
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Chau Chau Summit from Kaza.
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Next day morning we started to visit a nearby village named Kibbar.

Kibber is a tiny village high in the Spiti Valley at 4270 metres or 14,200 ft. The village has around 80 houses, unique, given that they are made of stone instead of mud or adobe brick. It was beautiful. I read somewhere that Kibbar and Komic are some of the highest "Motorable" villages in the world. Komic was in the same region but it was out of our itinerary.

Approaching Kibbar Village. Notice that Tiny Sumo.
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Far View of Kibbar Village.
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Kibbar Village.
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Kibbar Village.
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Kibbar village.
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We reached Kibbar.

It was a small village with a small school, a monstery and a post office. There wasn't any dhaba or food joint (don't know about current status).

We had a walk in the village. Met some children.

One of the kids asked me to visit his house.

I asked,... why?
He said,... they have a baby yak.

Wow, Why not "Chalo".
After all, who gets a chance to see a baby yak?

We spent 2 hours at Kibbar Village and then headed to Key Monastery.

Welcome to Kibbar.
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Exploring Village.
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At Monastery.
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Cute little baby Yak.
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Angry Yaks.
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Last edited by SJM1214 : 13th March 2018 at 18:42.
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Old 13th March 2018, 15:54   #13
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To Key Monastery.

We had an amazing time in Kibbar village. Parents of that kid (who invited me to see baby yak) were amazing people. They invited all of us for tea. They told us that there was a school in the village but the teacher is not regular.

From Kibbar, we headed to Key Monastery.

It was just 20km from Kaza town. There were some villages on another side of Spiti river. It was breathtaking, those villages, their plantations, their orchards, their fields.

Approaching Key Gompa.
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Road to Key Monastery.
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A Village and it's green farms.
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Some Village.
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Frist View of Key Gompa.
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Welcome to Key Gompa(Monastery)

Key Gompa is a Tibetan Buddhist monastery located on top of a hill at an altitude of 4,166 mt, close to the Spiti River, in the Spiti Valley.It is the biggest monastery in Spiti Valley and a religious training centre for Lamas. The successive trails of destruction and patch-up jobs have resulted in a haphazard growth of box-like structures, and so the monastery looks like a fort, with temples built on top of one another.

Key Monstery is flagship attraction of Spiti valley. Just like Thikse Monstery for Ladakh, Qutub Minar for Delhi, TajMahal for Agra, Gateway of India for Mumbai.

Welcome to Key Gompa.
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Key Gompa.
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A close up Of Key Gompa.
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The front side of Key Gompa.
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View From Terrace.
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We Explored Key Monastery.

Removing those military shoes and wearing them back was a hard task.
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Students at Key Gompa.
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Students at Key Gompa.
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The Monk who sold his Ferrari.
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We came back to Kaza.

My other friends went to the hotel for an afternoon nap. I went to explore Kaza Town. There was one newly built Monastery & stupas.

Stupas At Kaza.
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Stupas At Kaza.
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A colourful Monastery at Kaza.
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A colourful Monastery at Kaza.
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Last edited by SJM1214 : 13th March 2018 at 16:03.
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Old 13th March 2018, 16:20   #14
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To Keylong (Via Kunzum Pass)

After a comfortable night at Parasol Retreat, Kaza, next day early morning we started for Keylong.

Keylong is 168 Km from Kaza but before that, we were going to visit kunzum Pass and Chandra Tall. We started early and decided to have our Breakfast at Kunzum pass. Owner of Parasol Retreat Bishan Thakur was travelling with us. He has one more hotel at Keylong where we were going to stay for next two nights.

Thanks to Bishanbhai, he took us to a hidden lake. A small detour from the main road.

We started for Kunzum Pass.
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View from the Road.
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View From The Road.
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A hidden Lake. Not Visible from Road.
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A small Detour from the main road.
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As per Bishanbhai, A few locals knew about this lake
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Approaching Kunzum Pass.
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We reached Kunzum Pass at 1000.

Kunzum Pass is a high mountain pass at an elevation of 14931 ft. Kunzam La is the gateway to the Spiti Valley from the Lahaul Valley. Though higher than the Rohtang Pass, Kunzam is safer and provides easier ascent and descent.

Kunzum pass is the Starting Point of Spiti river and Chandra river both start flowing in each other's opposite side.

I kept an eye on this Mountain from Kaza.
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We were getting closer to it.
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At the Kunzum top. We met this Mountian.
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Kunzum Pass (TOP)
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A close up of Stupas at Kunzum Top.
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Making Of Spiti and Chandra Rivers.
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We had our Breakfast At Kunzum Top

There were some locals and some taxi drivers at Kunzum Top. One of the drivers gave a bad news to Bishanbhai, that there was some issue on the Road to Chandra Tal. We had to skip Chandra Tal.

At Kunzum Top.
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Post Breakfast Click with K top.
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Last edited by SJM1214 : 13th March 2018 at 16:26.
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From Kunzum Top, We headed to Batal.

Headed to Batal.
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The road to Batal was full of Glacier's tongues.

( Glacier's tongue? This happens to you, when you keep reading tsk1979's travelogues.)

It was amazing. We stopped at many places. The road was rough and narrow. We met many local shepherds with their Sheep and horses.

Crossing some Glacier.
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A tongue of Glacier.
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Glacier.
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Life Never Ends.
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Local Shepherds.
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We reached Batal Dhaba at 1400.

Chadra Dhaba, Batal and it's Chacha- Chachi are well known. After 2012, there were many incidents of people getting stuck at this dhaba for days and ChachiChachi helped them.We had simple but tasty lunch there.

Approaching Batal.
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Dhaba at Batal.
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Chandra Dhaba.
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We started from Batal.

Our Progress was very slow. We crossed some more Glaciers. We stopped for a while at a small village named Chattru. After Gramphu, we were on my familiar Manali- Leh road. We met many taxis and Motorcycle groups after Khoksar. Manali- Leh is always a busy road during June-July-Aug-Sept.

Our sumo at Glacier.
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A tough Water Crossing.
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We met many Motorcycle Groups.
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A broken Bridge on Manali- Leh highway.
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We reached Keylong at 1600.

Keylong is located along the Manali–Leh road, about 7 km northeast of the intersection of the Chandra Valley, the Bhaga Valley, and the Chenab Valley; on the banks of Bhaga River. Keylong is the district headquarters of Lahaul and Spiti and is home to most of the government offices and facilities in Lahaul, and also hosts a regular bazaar.

After Khokasr, mountains and fields again became green. The architecture style of local house was changed. It was familiar territory. I knew what to do and what to drink in Keylong. We checked in Bishanbhai's another hotel. We were tired. My friends went to their rooms and slept.

Notice the architecture style of the local house.
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Welcome to Green Lahual Valley.
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Welcome to Keylong.
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Last edited by SJM1214 : 13th March 2018 at 18:48.
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